31 July 2009

The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale

Flap Copy: "Mormon Housewife Becky Jack is seven months pregnant with her fourth child when she meets celebrity heartthrob Felix Callahan. A few hours, one elevator ride, and one alcohol-free dinner later something has happened, though nothing has happened ... It isn't sexual. It isn't even quite love. But soon Felix shows up in Salt Lake City to visit and before they know what's hit them, Felix and Becky are best friends - talk-on-the-phone, drop-everything-in-an-emergency, laugh-out-loud-at-stupid-jokes best friends.

Becky's loving and devoted husband, Mike, is mostly unconcerned. Her children roll their eyes. Her large extended family and neighbors gossip endlessly. But Felix and Becky have something special, something unusual, something that seems from the outside - and sometimes from the inside too - completely impossible to sustain."

Since finishing this book (which I did very easily, it's a quick and entertaining read) I have been struggling with how to review it. On the one hand, it's a fun tale about a normal woman who has the unlikely good fortune to meet her celebrity crush and actually find a meaningful friendship with him. Their banter is witty and their improbable friendship weathers the occasional storm just like any relationship, with spousal jealousies, the demands of work and family and general differences of opinion getting in the way. The story is often laugh-out-loud funny, and the characters are endearing in their own strange ways.

On the other hand, there were many times while reading that I wanted to just shake the book, or the characters within it, for the completely unrealistic moral overtones that I found leaping from most of the pages. Are there really people out there who believe it impossible for married women to have male friends, or vice versa? Are there families out there who would stage minor interventions because a sibling had a friend and the rest feared for her moral soul? I have no problem with storylines that contain religion or spirituality, but I want the devotion to seem realistic, I want to believe that the characters are people of faith, but real people. With this book I'm just not sure I bought it.

All that being said, I definitely recommend this book - it's not your standard chick-lit, the main character being far less independent than most heroines of the genre - if nothing else you'll have a good laugh.

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